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Mastodon is currently one of the biggest names in metal. While some dislike their sludgy brand of metal, this metalhead really enjoys their style. After recently purchasing their latest, at least at the time of this writing, title Crack the Skye, I decided to go back to their roots and dig out their very first demo. While this particular album has been released under a few different titles with a few alterations intracklisting , there is a very noticeable difference here: the vocals. Unlike all of their material released afterwards, this has vocalist Eric Saner handling all singing duties. One of the chief complaints I tend to find directed towards Mastodon is their lack of a distinctive singer. While this obviously isn't 100% fail-safe, I point to this demo as proof that complaint is a somewhat empty one.
If you need a point of comparison, purchase Call of the Mastodon. That and this demo are more or less the same album, but with different vocalists. With Saner as vocalist, the songs are weighed down by Saner's somewhat generic metalcore voice. He doesn't alter his tone much other than raising and lowering it a rare few times. Very undecipherable and lacking any real punch. CotM , while not perfect by any means, has a noticeable improvement in this area. Brent Hinds and Troy Sanders share singing duties and for the better. While their screaming does get monotonous at times, there are clean vocals popping up and the screams themselves are much better than Sanders though are about the same in the "what are they saying?" scale. The duel aspect does add another layer to the music giving it a feeling of franticness while Saner's plain screams dull the music as a whole. Hinds/Sanders combine to make the music much more interesting to listen to, especially in later records when they become more identifiable.
Instrumentally, the album is a fun listen. Guitars are thick and heavy and often are changing riffs at any given time. Solos, however, are non-existent for the most part though leads appear here and there albeit very rarely. Bass thumps along not adding much to the music, but it's pretty hearable which is a a step above many other bands in metal. Drumming, however, is another contendable point among listeners. Brann Dailor is an extremely technical percussionist and, is in my opinion, another aspect of the band that is irreplaceable. A lot of listeners find his style distracting however, as it seems almost too frantic at times which is something I do agree with.
Production-wise, the album is amazingly clear for a demo. I don't believe much, if anything, besides the vocals were re-recorded for any release in which these songs appear on to give you an idea of it's clarity. Everything is heard loud and clear. For the album as a whole, I cannot recommend it due to it's song appearing in superior forms on other releases. Download it as a history lesson and decide for yourself if the band could have truly progressed to where they are today with a dedicated singer like Saner.